Art //

Art Basel Miami | Guy Richards Smit: Mountain of Skulls

New York performance artist, painter, and singer-songwriter lights up Miami with his tongue-in-cheek wit.

Miss Rosenby Miss Rosen
© Guy Richards Smit

American performance art, painter, and singer-songwriter Guy Richards Smit stole the show at PULSE Contemporary Art Fair with “Mountain of Skulls”, a collection of watercolor and gouache paintings on paper hung together in a large-scale grid on view at Charlie James Gallery (Booth N-305). In this new series created in 2015, Smit has subverted the idea of traditional portraiture by combining it with the traditional memento mori, offering a new way of looking at humanity.

Photo by Miss Rosen © Guy Richards Smit

© Guy Richards Smit

Each work in this series features a single skull with a simple caption identifying a key characteristic of the person this one was. Sociopath. Playful. Boy Crazy. Sleepy. Infinitely Reasonable. One Trick Pony. Wonʼt Return Your Gaze. The captions, at once compelling, curious, and all too familiar, drew crowds who saw themselves and others in these works.

Photo by Miss Rosen © Guy Richards Smit

© Guy Richards Smit

Lindsie Canton at Charlie James Gallery explains, “ʻMountain of Skullsʼ is a mediation on vanitas, power, desire, and failure. At the end of the day, we are all skulls. People love the work. There have been incredible amounts of photographs taken in front of the work. Anyone can relate to them. Thereʼs always one for each person. You know a ʻPicky Eaterʼ or someone who is ʻTotally Out of Control.ʼ”

Photo by Miss Rosen © Guy Richards Smit

© Guy Richards Smit

The watercolors range from tight to very loose, creating a lyrical effect that makes imbues each skull with a spiritual energy. Thereʼs a sense of character, of the person that once was, both as an archetype and an original that seems all too familiar.

Photo by Miss Rosen © Guy Richards Smit

© Guy Richards Smit

With the success of “Mountain of Skulls”, the gallery pulled a couple of pieces out from the back from Smitʼs series, “NY Times,” offering a new take on the paper of record. Here, Smitʼs watercolor and gouache on paper serves as pure satire, punching upwards with the fists of a prizefighter.

Photo by Miss Rosen © Guy Richards Smit

© Guy Richards Smit

Smit re-envisions the front page with headlines that speak to our age, with stores like, “Panicked Cops Shoots Absolutely Everyone” and “Obeying Each Fleeting Impulse.” By combining sharp observations about politics and culture with a graceful charm and wit, Smit draws attention to the fact that we consume news as an extension of ourselves.

Photo by Miss Rosen © Guy Richards Smit

© Guy Richards Smit

The deeply narcissistic impulse that have become so pervasive throughout culture in recent years find home in Smitʼs gently mockery and celebration of the absurd, reminding us of the pleasure that comes when we learn not to take ourselves too seriously‚ lest we become the joke after all.


Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.